Saturday, 31 March 2012

Bologna Book Fair 2012 Day Three

The first party on Tuesday night was given to celebrate Gallimard Jeunesse's 40th birthday and it was where all the beautiful people were. It was in an elegant, frescoed palazzo and the prosecco flowed freely and I met Roger McGough! He was there as a guest of Frances Lincoln, where Janetta Otter-Barry Books publishes his poetry.

After all the dainty canapés, we decamped to the Egmont bash in a nightclub, where I met Tamara MacFarlane, the Indie Bookseller of Tales on Moon Lane and now an author in her own right (Amazing Esme books). She was chatting to Ramez Mikdashi about Magic Town, the new website from Mindshapes Ltd., which offers a "virtual world" for child readers. I got a bit distracted by prosecco but am assured Magic Town is going to be big.

It was not far from this club that we discovered the new favourite watering hole of children's publishers, while the famous "Neon Bar" on Via dell'Indipendenza is still closed. This could have been bad news but we extracted ourselves dextrously.

Last day at the Fair and a nice chat with Kate Wilson, above. Nosy Crow has done so very well in three years. I took another picture of its list of awards and they were almost too many to fit in. They were IPG Publisher of the Year last year.

They started with 23 books last year and it's looking like double that it 2013, not to mention the Apps. Their new Frog and Penguin Apps by Emma and Barry Tranter are freestanding, that is they haven't developed out of books.

The Grunts by Philip Ardagh and illustrated by Axel Scheffler are going great guns and I liked the look of The Secret Hen House Theatre a debut by London schoolteacher Helen Peters. And of course Dinosaur Zoom! Penny Dale's sequel to my favourite from last year, Dinosaur Dig!

Of course it's not just publishers at the Book Fair. Let's hear it for the agents, who have their own centre up an escalator, their own bar and -yes - their own loos! They work away all day at desks with numbers on flags. The representative from the agency who look after me, Rogers, Coleridge and White, got her own headline in the Bookseller Daily at Bologna: "Claire Wilson sells two débuts to Faber" so you can see how effective this is.

Her two are Ross Montgomery's Alex and The Cusp and Alexia Casale's The Bone Dragon, both featuring somewhat damaged children.

Illustrators are a very important part of the Fair too and this year's special guest was Portugal.

Also spotted were Babette Cole and John Shelley at the SCBWI stand, Korky Paul, who was in Bologna to celebrate Winnie the Witch's 25th anniversary. Another special guest, for Walker, was Jon Klassen.

Seen here with Sarah Bennett, Head of Walker's PR, young Mr Klassen is the author-illustrator of best-selling title I want my Hat Back. The sequel, This is not my Hat, will be out in October.

Publishers, agents, booksellers, journalists, illustrators and a sprinkling of authors. Almost my last encounter at the Fair was with the Italian publishers Lo Stampatello, who have brought out Il Grande Grosso Libro delle Famiglie (no translated needed?) and are taking The GBBoFeelings (Emozioni). This photo was one Lucy Coats took earlier. Thanks to her for it and some other photos in these reports.

And so till next year .....

Friday, 30 March 2012

Bologna Book Fair 2012 Day Two

I penetrated the massive new Bonnier stand to see Helen Boyle, Commissioning Editor for Templar. It was quite a contrast to their last year's stand. They even had their own coasters! And a sofa to wait on. "Actually there's a kitchen behind that door," Helen told me.

The Templar fiction list continues strong after the success of H./M.Castor's VIII, with a debut by Claire McFall called Ferryman, the first of three unrelated titles. McFall is a young Glaswegian teacher and her book is a romance set in the afterlife of the girl victim of a road accident, who falls for the man who comes to ferry her across to the other side. Should do well!

But they have not left their illustrated roots behind.  Helen was showing two debut picture books at the Fair - Oh dear, Geoffrey! by Gemma O'Neill, about a giraffe and Emma Bennet's Sidney, Stella and the Moon, about best friends. Lovely books but what makes them special is that the artists were two who just turned up at the Templar stand a year ago with their portfolios! It's good to know such magic can still happen.

Templar share the Bonnier stand with, among others, Hot Key, whom I promised to say more about. It was a surprise to find Ruth Logan there as Rights Director - a recent appointment - since she was still listed in that capacity in the catalogue for Bloomsbury! But never mind, so was Sarah Odedina. Hmn, maybe that Bible is not as reliable as I thought.

I had seen someone carrying a proof copy of Maggot Moon, Sally Gardner's first book for Hot Key, and craved one. Ruth promised to send me one and gave me a promotional bag in consolation; she needed all her proofs for publishers rather than mavens. And there seems to be an auction building for it in Germany.

That's a futuristic title but others on offer feature the Spanish Civil War and  World War Two. I was pleased to see new titles from Ellen Renner (Tribute) and Rebecca Lisle (The Spin). It's an eclectic and interesting-looking list, which I shall watch with interest.

I had lunch with my Finnish publishers, overlooking the Illustrators' Café, where this year's ALMA (Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award) was being announced. We heard the roar but it took a while to find out it was Guus Kuijer, the Dutch writer.

To Bloomsbury next where
 I had a super presentation from Ian Lamb (Head of Children's Publicity) and Susannah Curran (Head of Children's Marketing) on a neat little netbook. Is this a new trend, for marketing and PR people to come to the Fair? Nicky Potter was there for Frances Lincoln too.

Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas is their lead title, a debut fantasy from a twenty-five year old American (don't you just hate her already?) about a female assassin in a tournament against male opponents, out in August in the UK. Pre-publication there will be four e-novellas to set readers up for the main book.

Other highlights are a YA edition of Pigeon English, Eleven, Eleven, a WW1 book by Paul Dowswell, whose Auslander did so well. For the younger age range a 6th Septimus Heape book from Angie Sage and The Mystery of Wickworth Manor by Elen Caldecott.

Incredibly, this July sees the fifteenth anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and the quest to find the biggest HP fan. The ultimate winner gets a family trip to Wizarding World. It's also the tenth anniversary of Neil Gaiman's Coraline and the book will come out in a new edition illustrated by Chris Riddell.

It's always odd to whip off one hat and put on another at the Fair but with Ian, Susannah and my editor Emma Matthewson all round the table it was irresistible to talk about how to launch the last (sixth) Stravaganza title, City of Swords. Exciting things in the pipeline.

I was strictly an author for the rest of the afternoon, having a productive meeting with editor and art director Janetta and Jude at the Frances Lincoln stand, going through layouts on The Great Big Book of Feelings.

Two parties scheduled for the Tuesday night, of which more tomorrow!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Bologna Book Fair 2012 Day One

Well, I'm back from my 12th Bologna Book Fair, a bit the worse for wear, having brought home a chest infection along with all my catalogues, lists, notes and business cards.

A good Bologna begins on the plane out from Gatwick. Stuffed with editors, rights managers and agents, the 2pm flight is always a happy "spot-whom-you-know" event. Of course it shouldn't have been a surprise to see agent Catherine Clarke getting off the same coach from Oxford as me and we shared the long walk to the Terminal (when WILL they stop digging up that forecourt?).

Just long enough for her to tell me about Riversingers by Tom Moorhouse. "It's about water violes," Catherine told me. "A sort of Wind in the Willows for the 21st century."

Amanda Wood and Helen Boyle from Templar were fuelling up in Garfunkels like me and my travelling companion, self-described "Fair virgin" Lucy Coats. I even bumped into my own editor, Emma Matthewson (Bloomsbury) before getting on the plane.

We had a mad dash to the Random House party on the Sunday night with time only for one (the first of many) glass of prosecco. Then to dinner at old favourite Trattoria del Rosso and a satisfying chat about the novel that Lucy's agent would be selling at the Fair.

Monday morning brought that famous sight pictured above, the entrance to the Fair, followed by the annual grab for lanyards to put one's Fair pass in. I had no appointments till 11am so plenty of time to visit the Press Office and pick up my Catalogue, which acts as a Bible to the children's book world for a whole year.

Hall 25 feels like a second home to me now. I know where to expect Walker, Bloomsbury, Orion, Frances Lincoln to be and there they are. Also Nosy Crow. But this year sees a huge new stand for Bonnier.
Templar are in there somewhere and the brand new hot property that is Hot Key. HK is headed up by Sarah Odedina, former Children's Publisher at Bloomsbury in the Harry Potter era. More of them in another post.

My first port of call is usually Frances Lincoln, where they let me leave bags and coat. They have been doing absolute wonders with my Great Big Book of Families and its sequel, Feelings. I think we are up to 16 foreign editions on the first and the second is going well.

Hot properties this year are novels Amnesia by Savita Kalhan, At Yellow Lake by Jane McLoughlin and Keren David's new book about Ty, called Another Life.

I called in at the SCBWI stand (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) where Anita Loughrey was preparing for a very British afternoon:

Earlier there I had met Sarah Towie, a genuine American in Paris, who has developed an exciting App about the French Revolution. It is narrated by Charlotte Corday ("Three days ago I killed a man")

So you see the Fair is not just about books. One publisher with a new look was Barrington Stoke. A few years back they slightly lost their way, overpublishing at seventy titles a year. Now they have  a new  logo, a squirrel, a new slogan, "Cracking reading" and have reduced to forty titles. Here are Sales and Marketing Director Jane Walker, Managing Director Mairi Kidd and "Snuggs" the squirrel, named after Bounce distributor Robert Snuggs.

Barrington Stoke have always tempted top authors into writing for dyslexics and reluctant readers and next year Geraldine McCaughrean will join them. They are now publishing more titles for girls, even some in the US, called Stoke Books. "We're more 'tradey' these days, " says Jane Walker, "with titles being part of Waterstones Core Stock."

More tomorrow but I'm leaving you with one of my favourite stands at the Fair:

It belong to the Sharjah International Book Fair.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

A visit from Celia Rees

It's a great pleasure to welcome Celia Rees to my blog, as part of her extended tour talking about her new book, This is not Forgiveness (Bloomsbury). Not only because she has written extremely flattering stuff about me but because she is an old friend who has written a really good and interesting book!
Photo by Terry Rees

I love this picture of Celia, which shows that wicked glint in her eye that usually means mischief. There is trouble - big trouble - in her new book but it is a departure from her recent novels for Bloomsbury, which have been very successful historical fiction - Witch Child, Sorceress, Pirates, Sovay and The Fool's Girl. What a roll call of invention!

This is not Forgiveness is set in a now so up to date it makes your teeth hurt. It features a soldier with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a politically active girl with some very self-destructive tendencies and a boy who you just know is going to get caught up between them and suffer.

A bit about Celia:

Celia Rees was born and brought up in Solihull, in the West Midlands. She used some of her childhood for inspiration, directly in Truth or Dare and The Bailey Game, less obviously in her other books, although her love of pirates would eventually surface, and an adolescent reading of Bram Stoker’s Dracula led to Blood Sinister.

She studied History and Politics at Warwick University, and was particularly interested in American History, something that one day would influence Witch Child and Sorceress. Celia was a teacher for over ten years, teaching English in Coventry secondary schools, before she began to write. Teaching provided plenty of inspiration and reasons for writing, and eventually she began to write with her students. Celia says, “That’s when I knew what I wanted to do. I would write for teenagers, books that they would want to read, almost adult in style and content, but with people like them at the centre.”

Now over to her:

Never underestimate the Book Maven. She is very clever and has many talents. Among them is her ability as a proof reader. She has a forensic attention to detail, knows the correct word for everything, her spelling is perfect, and her knowledge of all things grammatical is second to none. I trust her above all others. She especially loves finding things that the copy editor has missed, so when I got the first proof copies of This Is Not Forgiveness, I asked her to read it for me. I knew that if there were mistakes there, she’d find them.

There were not all that many mistakes, I was gratified to know, and the ones she found were fiendishly well spotted, but what really impressed me was that she had correctly identified the inspirational source for the novel. Unlike the Book Maven herself (see her previous post), I can usually point to a moment of inspiration and this book came to me while I was watching François Truffaut’s film, Jules et Jim. It must have been late June, 2009. The film is a favourite of mine and I was watching it after returning from a week’s holiday in Paris, trying to extend the magic. The film was made in 1962 and is set before and after the First World War, but the story is essentially timeless.

Two young men who are close friends fall for the same extraordinary girl, played by the wonderful Jeanne Moreau. The character she plays is unpredictable, exciting, and dangerous. Irresistible. The film is often light-filled and joyous but the underlying tension between the characters introduces a dark foreshadowing, a tenebrous note of foreboding, a feeling that this will not turn out well. As I was watching, I remember thinking: ‘You could update this. Make it now.’

I couldn’t begin straight away – I was busy writing another novel, The Fool’s Girl, so my J & J Project had to wait. I can’t write two things at once. What I can do, however, is a bit of research. I discovered that François Truffaut based the film on a novel by fellow French writer, Henri-Pierre Roché. The novel was out of print; Truffaut found it in a secondhand bookshop. The serendipitous nature of that discovery further intrigued me and seemed to confirm that this would be a good thing to do. I got hold of Truffaut’s screenplay, then Roche’s novel (thank goodness for AbeBooks). The screenplay is very close to the book and I particularly liked the voiceover. I would have loved to write my book in the same terse, elliptical style as Roché’s novel but didn’t think the Y.A. market was quite ready for that. I discovered that the novel was semi autobiographical: an account of the love triangle between Roche, the artist Marcel Duchamp, and American artist, Beatrice Wood. Or maybe between Roché, Franz Hessel and Helen Grund – Roché seems to have put himself about a bit. All fascinating stuff and certainly material for a historical novel set in the Paris of the period, peopled by writers and artists. Think of the research opportunities…

But no, that would be too adult. Anyway, I’d decided that this book was going to be contemporary. So I took what I needed from Jules et Jim: the characters, the relationship between them and the seeds of destruction that lies within it, and changed everything else.

Not many people have spotted the original inspiration, so respect is due.

Well, Celia has done nothing to spare my blushes. But Jules et Jim is one of my all time favourite films and I too own the original novel and the screenplay so perhaps it wasn't surprising that I made the connection. (Oh and I did have an EP - remember those? - of the music from the film).

We have five copies of Celia's new book to give away to those who give the most interesting answers to this question:

What film has most lingered in your mind, perhaps giving you an idea for something you would like to write yourself?

Leave answers in the comments section below and you have till 24th March.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

All the things that aren't writing

Inspiration (William-Adolphe Bouguereau)
There used to be a popular feature in one of the Sunday glossies called A Day in the Life, or something like that. Whenever it was a writer, it went something like this:

5am Get up and write for two hours
7am Walk the dog
8am Breakfast with wife [big clue there]
9am -1pm Write
1pm Lunch with wife [ditto]
2-6pm Write
6pm Gin and Tonic
7pm Dinner with wife [get the picture?]
8-10pm Listen to opera

Sadly, this is the image that many non-writers have of those who do what I do. Quite apart from the fact that I never get up at 5am and have no dog or wife, I do wonder when these 10-hour-a-day novelists (usually novelists) ever did all the other things that aren't writing. Let me list some of them, in the rough chronological order of the life of a book - all except the actual writing:

Quiet thinking time
Researching (expands to fill available time)
Writing proposals or synopses and sample chapters
Re-writing and self-editing until the book or sample is fit to send
Dealing with publisher's edits [these may go back and forth]
Dealing with copy-edits [ditto]
Looking at and commenting on illustration roughs [only applies to children's writers]
        "      "    "           "            "  layouts (ditto)
Looking at book jacket visuals
Writing or editing/approving cover copy
Reading and checking proofs [often more than one round]
(Suggesting scenario for book trailer - optional)
Taking part in a Blog Tour [anything from one or two pieces written up to a month's worth] - increasingly not optional
Promoting book by book-signing tour, Festivals, Press interviews, school visits [children's writers]
Social networking on Facebook, Twitter etc.
(Reading reviews - optional)
Answering readers' letters and emails.

All that is for one book and if you write several a year, this work on them will  overlap.

Then in general if you are writer with an interest in the industry, there will be these things, many of which are optional:

Attending Festivals as part of audience
Book Fairs (London, Frankfurt, Bologna)
Reviewing other writers' books
Sitting on book prize committees
Maintaining your own blog (at least once a week) - increasingly expected by publishers
Guesting on other people's blogs
(Being part of a joint blog - optional)
Keeping your website updated 
(Making up-to-date PowerPoints for presentations)
e-mailing agent, editor, PR person and dealing with their queries
Reading other books in your field to keep up
Putting in expenses claims
(Teaching creative writing courses/acting as RLF Fellow etc)

And the things that everyone does, especially freelances who work for themselves:

Keeping accounts up to date
Issuing invoices to Festivals, newspapers, (schools) etc.
(VAT quarterly if registered)
Tax returns
Tax payments twice yearly

Of course if you are wealthy or have a wealthy partner, you won't need to do all those things and there will also be some you can delegate to others, whom you pay to do them. But a day that is a mosaic or patchwork of several of the above is much more common than the 10 hours a day exclusively devoted to the actual business of writing, especially if you are a woman.


The lovely painting above shows a woman waiting for inspiration. The most common question questions asked of writers are "Where do you get your ideas from?" or "What inspired you to ...?" It has always baffled me. Why would you take on such an arduous, precarious and ill-paid career as writing if you were not simply teeming with an inexhaustible swarm of ideas begging to be turned into books?

The majority of my friends are published writers, people who make a living from writing books and though I have heard them talk about many aspects of their lives from money to research, agents to RSI, I have never once heard one of them use the word "inspiration."

What we all want more of is time, time to concentrate on "just writing" and that's why writers' retreats are so popular. You go somewhere remote and rural, without a phone signal, and divest yourself of all the things that aren't writing. You even have surrogate wives to cook for you. But it costs; it's a rare treat.


This is a Twitter hashtag developed by highly-motivated American writer Johanna Harness (@johannaharness). She has made a website for it too Every day on Twitter Johanna asks, "Are you writing?" or "What are you writing?" and using that hashtag, writers reply. So often I have to modify it to #amediting or #amrewriting or #amthinkingaboutmybook. Johanna kindly says it all counts and it does.

But it doesn't look always look like writing.